Space tourism to become reality in the near future

Enterprise, Engage!

The first space tourists are getting ready for take off. It seems that they will be able to enjoy their much awaited extraterrestrial adventure in about 18 months, after of course paying a huge fee to Virgin Galactic or to other providers of such specific travel services.  Hundreds of space travelers have already signed up and trained to be among the first paying passengers aboard Virgin Galactic’s trips to suborbital space, 62 miles above the Earth, in a Star Trek – inspired space ship called VSS Enterprise (pictured in this article).

“One of the reasons I’m doing this is precisely because I want these things to be ordinary,” said PJ King, a 41-year-old Irish businessman said. “Part of the problem with space travel is that it is special.”

The businessman believes the $200,000 fee passengers pay for a seat on a Virgin Galactic spacecraft will help create a new future when “flights like this are happening every week, when lots of people go, and the cost has been massively reduced due to the economics of scale.”

While the $200,000 might dazzle you and make you think it costs a fortune to travel in space, the good news is that prices for space tourism have started decreasing even before it actually took off. This is the natural result of competition on the space tourism segment – Russia charges private travelers $40 million to ride on its Soyuz spacecraft and throws in a few days aboard the international space station. Virgin Galactic has the $200,000 price tag for a much shorter  flight to suborbital space. And there is also a third player, Space Adventures,  advertising suborbital trips for about half that price: $102,000.

How much of a temptation would a space super-short vacation represent? PJ King states he knows people who’ve taken out mortgages to make sure they secure a spot on a spacecraft!

According to Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides, 360 people have already signed up for a space trip and the company expects the numbers to soon grow significantly, reaching thousands and tens of thousands of future space tourists. The main reason might be that the actual travel into space is closer than anyone would have thought. On New Mexico’s Spaceport America, future home base for Virgin Galactic space flights, now features an about 2-mile spacecraft runway, just opened this month.

As CNN puts it, “Virgin Galactic owner Sir Richard Branson and a virtual hall of fame of other wealthy business figures have invested much of their vast fortunes in hopes of gaining a toe hold in commercial space. Budget Suites owner Robert Bigelow, PayPal co-founder Elon Musk and’s Jeff Bezos are all developing their own space hardware for traveling to — or living in — Earth orbit.”

I for one would love to be part of such an adventure. But from this secret wish to taking out a mortgage and pay for 20 years to afford it, well there’s a long way to go. What about you? To what extents would you go to catch a spot on the VSS Enterprise?